YouTube Hair Combing Video Rattles Blogosphere

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Host Michel Martin and digital media producer Lee Hill comb through listener feedback. First up, the "Tell Me More" audience speaks out after a recent conversation focusing on a controversial hair combing video, posted to YouTube. Also, one woman says she can relate to host Michel Martin's existential crisis, as described in her latest commentary about the many other women named "Michelle."

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me as always. Hey, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. So Tuesday, we talked about this online video showing a young African-American girl having her tight, curly hair brushed. Now, we don't know who the people are, whether they are mother or daughter, but the video posted to YouTube is sparking a heated debate over parenting styles. Here's a clip.

(Soundbite of YouTube Video)

Unidentified Child: No.

Unidentified Woman: Get over here.

Unidentified Child: No.

(Soundbite of screaming)

HILL: Now, Michel, the moms debated whether what we saw in that video was abusive, and many of our listeners shared that they did not agree, but they also shared their painful experiences around hair care. And we found that those experiences were not limited to people of color. Here's blogger Donna(ph).

DONNA: Although I'm a European-American, I went through exactly the same hair-care ritual as the poor little girl in the video. My mother would scream and pull our thick hair back. She would sit us in the sink when we were really little and then wash our hair in dishwashing soap, and then she'd pull us out of the sink and just tell us, like, shut up you, shut up you, and hit us, and then I think because our hair is so thick in our family, with my daughters, my one daughter especially, I would actually run around the room trying to get her and tackle her down so I could brush her hair.

MARTIN: Lee, blogger Joe(ph) said all this is none of our business. He writes: The video is in bad taste, and you all out to stay out of this. You do not know the circumstances. As a boy with, quote, "good hair, it was painful as a child, and I screamed my head off when my mother combed my hair and sometimes got a smack. Isn't there something more important to black people in the world than a woman combing a child's hair roughly?"

Joe, thank you for writing, but with all due respect, if you don't people in your business, turn the camera off and stay off YouTube. By definition, it's a public forum. But as I said, thank you. Lee?

HILL: Michel, moving on - Let's Talk Race At Your Place. That's the title of a blog penned by our very own supervising producer, Teshima Walker, and she's been on a roll lately with these blog posts, might I add.

Well, this week she wrote about how last week's White House happy hour with black scholar Henry Louis Gates and the white police officer that arrested him, Sergeant James Crowley, has sparked a lot of talk about race relations.

Now Teshima, who is black, confessed to the blogosphere that she has never invited anyone of a different race over to her house to talk about race.

MARTIN: But she did ask the blogosphere to share their experiences with such gatherings as the one hosted by President Obama. There were some interesting responses. We were able to catch up with one blogger, Sharmaine(ph). She had this to say.

SHARMAINE: My next-door neighbor is from Ecuador and Mormon. I am black and an AME, standing for African Methodist Episcopal. My neighbors frequent my home regularly, and we can get into some very heated debates, ranging from cultural differences to religious differences. We can't get by racism without getting to know each other. You may be surprised at what you'll find out.

HILL: And thank you, Sharmaine. Finally, Michel, on your commentary this week, you explained your frustration, often being compared to others with the same name, such as first lady Michelle Obama. Well, Michel, here's a funny note we received from yet another Michelle(ph). She writes: I grew up in Sri Lanka, and there were three Michelles in my class. I ended up being best friends with the Michelles. She says she also works with another Michelle, and she continues to write, and now we have a Michelle Obama. I can relate to everything you said. I am also a mother of twins and grew veggies long before Michelle O. did, but what can I say?

Michel, it looks like you just might have a twin in the world yourself.

MARTIN: I guess I do. Thank you, Michelle, all the Michelles, and thank you, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log onto our new Web site, where you can read more from fellow listeners and enjoy a simpler social-networking experience. Go to npr.org. Click on programs, then click on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

(Soundbite of music)

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